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West Burlington

Caring for Patients During Three Centuries

Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center-West Burlington is among few hospitals in Iowa that have continually served patients during three millennia – the 1800s, 1900s and 2000s. It opened Aug. 1, 1895, as Burlington Hospital, the third small hospital in a city of about 23,000 people.

Located in a house at 521 Court St., Burlington Hospital had 12 patient beds on the first and second floors. Nurses lived on the third floor, physicians performed surgery in the dining room and the kitchen was in the basement. The hospital's first full-time staff consisted of three nurses.

In 1898, construction of a new Burlington Hospital building was completed at Third and Court streets, the current location of Burlington Public Library. The Garrett-Phelps family moved into its former home at 521 Court St., which is now a museum containing artifacts from the family and the home’s time has a hospital.

Between 1908 and 1962, four wings were added to Burlington Hospital. Two were funded by local women – Lydia Dankwardt in 1953, and Millie Eastman in a 1962 bequest.

In 1969, Mercy Hospital – one block north – merged with Burlington Hospital to form Memorial Hospital at Burlington. The following year, an enclosed corridor connecting the two hospitals was built over Third Street. Burlington’s third hospital from the late 1800s, St. Francis Hospital, converted to a nursing home in 1971.

In 1975, Klein Memorial Hospital — which had opened in 1963 as a rehabilitation hospital for the chronically ill — merged with Memorial Hospital at Burlington to form Burlington Medical Center. Klein Memorial Hospital was renamed the BMC Klein Center, and its 125 beds were converted to long-term nursing care.

By the mid-1970s, Burlington’s population had grown to more than 32,000 people, and another 15,000 people lived outside city limits in Des Moines County. To accommodate the growth, Third Street in downtown Burlington was closed and a five-story building was constructed between Burlington Medical Center and what was then called the Mercy Professional Building.

At this point, there was no room for another addition.

Burlington Medical Center began developing its future with the 1988 purchase of about 100 acres of farmland in West Burlington. The first building on the campus – now called Family Medicine-Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center – opened in 1990. Radiation therapy for cancer treatment was moved from the hospital to a new freestanding building on the West Burlington campus the next year. In 1994, an outpatient rehabilitation facility was connected to the cancer center building.\

After nearly three years of construction, the renamed Great River Medical Center opened April 4, 2000. It was first new hospital built in Iowa in 11 years and the largest construction project to date in Des Moines County.

In 2006, the Heart & Vascular Center, Digestive Health Center, Behavioral Health Center, inpatient rehabilitation gym, and emergency transportation building for air care and ambulance service were added to improve patient care. Kid Zone Childcare Center for employees’ children opened the same year.

Construction continued:

  • 2007 –Hospice House
  • 2012 – Wellness Plaza (Orthopedic clinic, Health Fitness expansion)
  • 2014 – Klein Center

On Aug. 1, 2018, Fort Madison Community Hospital joined Great River Medical Center as partners under the Great River Health corporate umbrella. This partnership of two independent healthcare organizations positioned southeast Iowa as a regional hub for high-quality primary and specialty care, provided through a local health system.

On July 1, 2021, Great River Medical Center and Fort Madison Community Hospital became one hospital with a new name to meet qualification for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for Sole Community Hospital (SCH) classification. The new name is Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center. The SCH program was created to maintain access to needed health services for Medicare beneficiaries in rural communities by providing greater reimbursement.